Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Hello Cosmic 19: Marvel: The End

[Yet another post in the series that has made you confront Jim Starlin's cosmic work at Marvel and go, "Shit, yeah, I guess it was actually pretty cool most of the time..." No thanks necessary, comic reader. Today, I'm looking at Marvel: The End #1-6. New posts in this series Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Boo-yeah.]

Despite the fact that the words "The End" are in the title, this series is 100% in continuity. Usually, when Marvel publishes something with "The End" in the title, it takes place in the future and provides a potential ending for the series/characters. Not here, because Jim Starlin just takes shit like that as a jumping off point and then does something to make Joe Quesada's crazy promises make sense.

In this case, Starlin provides a solution to heroes returning from the dead, namely the fact that doing so destroys the universe.

The plot doesn't matter much here, because it's all leading to Thanos becoming God, realising that the universe is going to end no matter what and that his becoming God was really just a way for the previous God to get out of having to deal with it. How fucked up is that?

It seems that the costant back-and-forth between life and death by heroes has fucked up the universe and is causing it to die. So, Thanos destroys the universe after trying everything possible to save it. In issue six, Thanos the Mad God fights all of the heroes and cosmic beings, but destroys the universe in a fit of rage. So, we're left with darkness and him. Until Adam Warlock shows up since he is outside of the universe with Gamorra and that little cosmic anchor girl from Infinity Abyss. Nearly half of the issue is just the two of them talking about what happened, Thanos' life and what needs to be done.

And then Death shows up with Adam telling Thanos something Thanos should have heard years ago: "Sometimes trying too hard is the problem. / Something surrendering is the only path to victory." Death removes her cloak and actually speaks to Thanos, thanking him, kisses him and then leaves. Thanos realises his ultimate goal, the one thing he's been pursuing since his first appearance, really. Of course, he seemingly stopped pursuing Death for a while, but this shows he never really got over her.

Having gotten the one thing he's always wanted, Thanos rebuilds the universe, but, in the process, makes it impossible for anyone to return from the dead, including himself who is seemingly dead. No one (save Warlock) remembers what happened and how Thanos saved the universe.

I really like the fact that Starlin managed to make the story, partly, about fulfilling an editorial mandate about no more resurrections (since not adhered to). I wonder if he was asked to do that or just decided to take it upon himself. It works really well here as it ties into Thanos' story so well. He eventually becomes God again with a power source even greater than the Infinity Gauntlet, learns that he's been tricked into this position and, in a rage, destroys the universe--however, only by destroying the universe can he heal it and provide a gift to Death, the "woman" he loves. By making it that no one can return from the Dead, he makes her realm secure and prevents the loss of those who enter it. Thanos also rebuilds the universe in a selfless act, fully redeeming this man who has been one of the worst villains in the Marvel universe. Really, the book should be called "Thanos: The End" as that's what it is in the best sense--the end of Thanos, but in a conclusion that is completely satisfying.

You'll notice that I skipped over much of the series to the final issue or two, but that's because those early issues, in the best Starlin fashion, don't do much beyond set up the final events. That's not to say that those issues are bad (far from it), they just don't matter, in a way. Starlin is a master of the filler stories in that they don't seem like filler until you look at the core of the story and realise how much of it is unnecessary. It never fails to impress me.

This isn't actually the end of Thanos, though, as we'll see that he didn't actually die here next time when I look at Thanos: Epiphany (the first six issues of his solo series).